Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Limbaugh's Disingenous Diet

So Andrew Sullivan links to this stunning segment from a recent Rush Limbaugh show:

Michelle Obama's on this big obesity kick, right? Gotta eat healthy stuff, gotta eat the garbage that she grows in the garden, nothing but fruits and vegetables.

Okay, along comes Mark Haub, professor, human nutrition, Kansas State University, who ate a Twinkie every three hours, and when he got tired of Twinkies, he ate Doritos, sugar cereals, and Oreos. And he was out there to prove that pure calorie counting is what matters most, not the nutritional value of the food. And the premise held up on his convenience store diet available in what Michelle calls food deserts. He lost 27 pounds in two months eating Twinkies, Doritos, Oreos, and sugar cereals. "For a class project, Haub limited himself to less than 1,800 calories a day." He didn't care where they came from. It was 1,800 calories. "A man of Haub's pre-dieting size usually consumes about 2,600 calories daily. So he followed a basic principle of weight loss: He consumed significantly fewer calories than he burned. His body mass index went from 28.8, considered overweight, to 24.9, which is normal. He now weighs 174 pounds." He weighed 201.

"But you might expect other indicators of health would have suffered. Not so. Haub's 'bad' cholesterol dropped 20 percent on a diet of --" Dawn, are you listening to this or are you ignoring me on purpose? Kathryn, you hear this? She sent me a note up there, "Don't get any Twinkie ideas." (laughing) When I first mentioned this in the first segment she sent me an instant message, "Don't you get any Twinkie ideas." Kathryn, are you hearing me on this? Nothing but Twinkies.

So I went and read the whole article on CNN. As expected, Limbaugh's description of the diet is seriously flawed. For one thing, the guy didn't just eat Twinkies. He ate a can of vegetables, a protein shake and a multi-vitamin every day. Limbaugh doesn't mention those trivial details in the transcript. The Twinkies provided the diet's caloric content. The nutrition came from other sources. So, refering to it as a Twinkie diet is somewhat disingenuous. Another point Limbaugh fails to mention: when you do the math, the guy only ate five individual Twinkie cakes a day. That's not exactly stuffing your face with Twinkies.

Finally, I decided to reasearch what's actually in a Twinkie. Though the pastries have a reputation as being tiny cakes of death, they're really nothing more than 150 calories of flour, sugar, eggs, and lard (plus a bunch of flavor and texture additives with scary names, that are nonetheless ubiquitous in processed foods). The fat content is 4.5 grams, so eating five a day amouts to 22.5 grams of fat intake a day, significantly less than the 30 grams that constitute a low fat diet. And the Cholesterol content? A mere 20 mg, or 7% of the RDA. Multiply that by 5 and you've got a grand total of 35% of your daily recommended cholesterol content. No wonder his cholesterol count improved!

Limbaugh mentions none of this, of course. Instead he uses this diet to attack Michelle Obama, and reinforce his listener's need to be told that everything those danged liberal authority figures have told them up to now is false, and the way to really lose weight is to stuff yourself with Twinkies, Doritos and Cheese Puffs.

(VIA: Andrew Sullivan)

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